Small town faces huge bill to fix water system

Watering lawn

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) — The small southern Kansas town of Pretty Prairie is facing a multimillion-dollar bill to repair its aging water system and address concerns about high levels of nitrates in the water.

The current estimate to fix the system in the Reno County town of about 680 people is $4.63 million. City Council members indicated Monday that they want to reduce the scale of the project, but the costs would still be in the millions, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/1hyKaIJ ).

A consultant report issued in May said the town’s water in 2013 had an average nitrate level of 19.85 milligrams per liter. The maximum should not exceed 10 milligrams, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment put the town on a violation list. A test taken in February this year found 20 milligrams per liter.

Because high nitrates pose a health risk to infants, the town provides bottled water to pregnant women and children up to 6 months old.

A preliminary engineering report from BG Consultants Inc. of Hutchinson noted several problems with the system. It said the high nitrate levels cause the city to use one well because another well has been disconnected and a third is used only for emergencies. The consultants recommended an ion exchange treatment operation and lined lagoons to hold residual brine from the treatment plant.

The town’s 50,000-gallon-capacity water tower, which was built in 1919, should be replaced by a new tower with a 150,000-gallon capacity, the consultants said. And 74 percent of existing water mains in the city are smaller than the 6-inch diameter recommended by the KDHE, and the town should replace all its old sandcast and cast-iron mains within the distribution system.

“It just keeps rolling on up there,” Mayor Mike Seyb of the costs.

The ion exchange treatment system is considered the priority, but most Council members want to keep the old water mains, which would reduce the cost to $3.3 million. And council members said they were undecided about the proposed water tower.

Town officials will seek possible loans or grants from state and federal governments to help defray the costs.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

 

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